Exit Through The Gift Shop Reviews
The camera flashes quickly through the art pieces, not staying on any one long enough for the audience to take it in. The film is tainted by garbled and shadowed Banksy's desire for anonymous fame, and the motor is more propelled by Thierry Guetta's wild ravings and incompetent artistry than a real search for truth. This all makes me wonder whether or not Banksy even intended to make an earnest film about the legitimacy of graffiti (which seems to be what most people take away from this film), or if he actually just intended to alienate the audience with devil-may-care antics as a type of "joke's on you, this is shiite" anti-art performance piece, and if that's the case, he may have succeeded.
Thierry Guetta has rarely let a moment of his life go unfilmed, and by coincidence - the street artist Space Invader is his cousin - he brings his obsessive zeal to bear on this particular underground, tracking down many of the biggest names for ride-alongs, filming them, and throwing the tapes in a bin... all under the premise that he's making a documentary. But Guetta is not making anything, merely documenting his unprecedented access to this specific scene - think of someone like Don Letts and the way he filmed The Clash, The Ramones, etc. And though Guetta finally manages to film Banksy, the movie he produces - at his "subjects'" urging - is, as Banksy says, "sh-t." Banksy says to Guetta, "Leave the footage with me, and go and make some of your own art," which Guetta does, under the name Mr. Brainwash (MBW), to rapid and spectacular financial success, basically by reproducing Banksy- and Warhol-style iconography in the right place, at the right time.
So what's so brilliant? Banksy manages to use the film to disown MBW, and to salvage the independence and integrity of the many street artists who might have gotten caught up in the "project," as MBW, despite his prolific ascent, has completely missed the point of street art: temporary subversion.
Though the odd piece - largely sculptures - can be saved and sold, by and large street art cannot last. Must not last. For Guetta to go into the business of "selling" street art is to expose himself as a profiteering hack, taking someone else's work and making his living off it...
...which, if you pay for this film, you are of course allowing Banksy to do. It's a rare piece from the master subversive that's intended to last, not for the purpose of selling it, but rather, for the purpose of protecting a legacy. It might be a bit mean-spirited in that it turns the knife in an admirer, and yet, I'm not sure Guetta would see it that way... this is more exposure than he'd ever otherwise have gotten, his big break, and he's all over the last half of the film, claiming with a straight face to know what he's doing with his art, almost preaching to the masses.
Effectively, Banksy is saying "We won't let you destroy us by making a movie about us - instead, we'll destroy you by making a movie about you." And yet, in its appeal to either audience - the hyper-underground or the hyper-uninitiated - the work may still fool some into thinking it's a collaboration, and as a third party, I could even be convinced it's symbiotic, in a way.
But never forget who signed this. Banksy is the subject making the film, and declaredly refusing to be the subject of it. Magnificent appropriation... of his own voice! Google "Gramsci organic intellectual" if you don't believe me. This is brilliant stuff.
(Good God: I hope the hoax rumours - that this is a mockumentary, not a documentary - aren't true. That would make me the biggest sucker of all... and nevertheless prove the film's brilliance, only more so.)
The story of how an eccentric French shop keeper and amateur film maker attempted to locate and befriend Banksy, only to have the artist turn the camera back on its owner. The film contains footage of Banksy, Shephard Fairey, Invader and many of the world's most infamous graffiti artists at work.
A fiercely entertaining movie about one man's crusade to make a film record of the underground street art world that becomes more about the man himself than it does about the art.
Banksy, the legendary street artist and director of the documentary, tells the story of Thierry, an amateur filmmaker who makes friends with the street art community and records them at work. They like him, mostly because he's documenting for the world what they do. The ultimate catch is getting a chance to meet and record Banksy himself, which Thierry does. This seems to be what the movie is about and takes us to about the mid-way point. But then the focus shifts -- Thierry decides he wants to be an overnight street art sensation himself and stages a huge and hugely successful exhibit of his work. Never mind that most of the work was actually done by a team of hired graphic artists and carpenters and that Thierry spends more time aggressively promoting himself than he does creating any art.
At the heart of "Exit Through the Gift Shop" are some compelling questions about the legitimacy of art. The public buys into the hype and embraces Thierry as the Next Big Thing -- are they dupes or trend setters? When does art become art? When it's put on a wall or when the public endorses it? You can feel the bitterness and most probably jealousy of Banksy and the other street artists in the film practically seeping off the screen. After all, here's some anonymous guy that throws a lot of money behind a stunt that gets him instantly to a place that took them years to get to (if they get there at all).
It's hard to know how to feel about Thierry. You want to dislike him for many of the same reasons that the street artists clearly feel some animosity toward him, but at the same time it's hard to resist his infectious enthusiasm, and it's not his fault that the general public is basically pretty stupid. If he can recognize that and capitalize off of it, why shouldn't he? It's a right that belongs to all of us.
I must start saying that I have been a fan of street art for a long time, before it even started as a trend. When i heard that this documentary was going to be about street art I got really excited, but what turned out to be was a big promotion almost an industrial vision of street artists.
This isn't a movie about Banksy, lets make that clear, but like the movie, they use his name to get promotion, this rather interesting movie about what to me is the best work of art there is, turns out to be a big disappointment when we realize that all the movie really wants is to promote these names that should be promoted, they are underground artists, and so these infiltrating new artists make of what is a underground trend something achievable by any little playboy.
Overall its a good documentary, it gives a basic insight on what street art is, however throughout the movie we are able to see the real intentions behind it, which is to sell, and thats when the movie starts to lack intrest in my opinion. I've been a fan of street art movies for a long time, there are many out there, a whole bunch of documentaries that really show what street art is all about, and the real undergroundness of it. So Exit Through The Gift Shop isn't all that good, for someone with a passion for street art like me, just to hear the words of Bansky, MBW, and other artists is really amazing, but either than that this movie is that total irony of street art.
Thierry Guetta: " I don't know how to play chess, but to me, life is like a game of chess."